Portions of the following post were taken from an article by Rob Spiegel publishing through Design News Daily.

Two former Apple design engineers – Anna Katrina Shedletsky and Samuel Weiss have leveraged machine learning to help brand owners improve their manufacturing lines. The company, Instrumental , uses artificial intelligence (AI) to identify and fix problems with the goal of helping clients ship on time. The AI system consists of camera-equipped inspection stations that allow brand owners to remotely manage product lines at their contact manufacturing facilities with the purpose of maximizing up-time, quality and speed. Their digital photo is shown as follows:

Shedletsky and Weiss took what they learned from years of working with Apple contract manufacturers and put it into AI software.

“The experience with Apple opened our eyes to what was possible. We wanted to build artificial intelligence for manufacturing. The technology had been proven in other industries and could be applied to the manufacturing industry,   it’s part of the evolution of what is happening in manufacturing. The product we offer today solves a very specific need, but it also works toward overall intelligence in manufacturing.”

Shedletsky spent six (6) years working at Apple prior to founding Instrumental with fellow Apple alum, Weiss, who serves Instrumental’s CTO (Chief Technical Officer).  The two took their experience in solving manufacturing problems and created the AI fix. “After spending hundreds of days at manufacturers responsible for millions of Apple products, we gained a deep understanding of the inefficiencies in the new-product development process,” said Shedletsky. “There’s no going back, robotics and automation have already changed manufacturing. Intelligence like the kind we are building will change it again. We can radically improve how companies make products.”

There are number examples of big and small companies with problems that prevent them from shipping products on time. Delays are expensive and can cause the loss of a sale. One day of delay at a start-up could cost $10,000 in sales. For a large company, the cost could be millions. “There are hundreds of issues that need to be found and solved. They are difficult and they have to be solved one at a time,” said Shedletsky. “You can get on a plane, go to a factory and look at failure analysis so you can see why you have problems. Or, you can reduce the amount of time needed to identify and fix the problems by analyzing them remotely, using a combo of hardware and software.”

Instrumental combines hardware and software that takes images of each unit at key states of assembly on the line. The system then makes those images remotely searchable and comparable in order for the brand owner to learn and react to assembly line data. Engineers can then take action on issues. “The station goes onto the assembly line in China,” said Shedletsky. “We get the data into the cloud to discover issues the contract manufacturer doesn’t know they have. With the data, you can do failure analysis and reduced the time it takes to find an issue and correct it.”

WHAT IS AI:

Artificial intelligence (AI) is intelligence exhibited by machines.  In computer science, the field of AI research defines itself as the study of “intelligent agents“: any device that perceives its environment and takes actions that maximize its chance of success at some goal.   Colloquially, the term “artificial intelligence” is applied when a machine mimics “cognitive” functions that humans associate with other human minds, such as “learning” and “problem solving”.

As machines become increasingly capable, mental facilities once thought to require intelligence are removed from the definition. For instance, optical character recognition is no longer perceived as an example of “artificial intelligence”, having become a routine technology.  Capabilities currently classified as AI include successfully understanding human speech,  competing at a high level in strategic game systems (such as chess and Go), autonomous cars, intelligent routing in content delivery networks, military simulations, and interpreting complex data.

FUTURE:

Some would have you believe that AI IS the future and we will succumb to the “Rise of the Machines”.  I’m not so melodramatic.  I feel AI has progressed and will progress to the point where great time saving and reduction in labor may be realized.   Anna Katrina Shedletsky and Samuel Weiss realize the potential and feel there will be no going back from this disruptive technology.   Moving AI to the factory floor will produce great benefits to manufacturing and other commercial enterprises.   There is also a significant possibility that job creation will occur as a result.  All is not doom and gloom.


Various definitions of product lifecycle management or PLM have been issued over the years but basically: product lifecycle management is the process of managing the entire lifecycle of a product from inception, through engineering design and manufacture, to service and disposal of manufactured products.  PLM integrates people, data, processes and business systems and provides a product information backbone for companies and their extended enterprise.

“In recent years, great emphasis has been put on disposal of a product after its service life has been met.  How to get rid of a product or component is extremely important. Disposal methodology is covered by RoHS standards for the European Community.  If you sell into the EU, you will have to designate proper disposal.  Dumping in a landfill is no longer appropriate.

Since this course deals with the application of PLM to industry, we will now look at various industry definitions.

Industry Definitions

PLM is a strategic business approach that applies a consistent set of business solutions in support of the collaborative creation, management, dissemination, and use of product definition information across the extended enterprise, and spanning from product concept to end of life integrating people, processes, business systems, and information. PLM forms the product information backbone for a company and its extended enterprise.” Source:  CIMdata

“Product life cycle management or PLM is an all-encompassing approach for innovation, new product development and introduction (NPDI) and product information management from initial idea to the end of life.  PLM Systems is an enabling technology for PLM integrating people, data, processes, and business systems and providing a product information backbone for companies and their extended enterprise.” Source:  PLM Technology Guide

“The core of PLM (product life cycle management) is in the creation and central management of all product data and the technology used to access this information and knowledge. PLM as a discipline emerged from tools such as CAD, CAM and PDM, but can be viewed as the integration of these tools with methods, people and the processes through all stages of a product’s life.” Source:  Wikipedia article on Product Lifecycle Management

“Product life cycle management is the process of managing product-related design, production and maintenance information. PLM may also serve as the central repository for secondary information, such as vendor application notes, catalogs, customer feedback, marketing plans, archived project schedules, and other information acquired over the product’s life.” Source:  Product Lifecycle Management

“It is important to note that PLM is not a definition of a piece, or pieces, of technology. It is a definition of a business approach to solving the problem of managing the complete set of product definition information-creating that information, managing it through its life, and disseminating and using it throughout the lifecycle of the product. PLM is not just a technology, but is an approach in which processes are as important, or more important than data.” Source:  CIMdata

“PLM or Product Life Cycle Management is a process or system used to manage the data and design process associated with the life of a product from its conception and envisioning through its manufacture, to its retirement and disposal. PLM manages data, people, business processes, manufacturing processes, and anything else pertaining to a product. A PLM system acts as a central information hub for everyone associated with a given product, so a well-managed PLM system can streamline product development and facilitate easier communication among those working on/with a product. Source:  Aras

A pictorial representation of PLM may be seen as follows:

Hopefully, you can see that PLM deals with methodologies from “white napkin design to landfill disposal”.  Please note, documentation is critical to all aspects of PLM and good document production, storage and retrieval is extremely important to the overall process.  We are talking about CAD, CAM, CAE, DFSS, laboratory testing notes, etc.  In other words, “the whole nine yards of product life”.   If you work in a company with ISO certification, PLM is a great method to insure retaining that certification.

In looking at the four stages of a products lifecycle, we see the following:

Four Stages of Product Life Cycle—Marketing and Sales:

Introduction: When the product is brought into the market. In this stage, there’s heavy marketing activity, product promotion and the product is put into limited outlets in a few channels for distribution. Sales take off slowly in this stage. The need is to create awareness, not profits.

The second stage is growth. In this stage, sales take off, the market knows of the product; other companies are attracted, profits begin to come in and market shares stabilize.

The third stage is maturity, where sales grow at slowing rates and finally stabilize. In this stage, products get differentiated, price wars and sales promotion become common and a few weaker players exit.

The fourth stage is decline. Here, sales drop, as consumers may have changed, the product is no longer relevant or useful. Price wars continue, several products are withdrawn and cost control becomes the way out for most products in this stage.

Benefits of PLM Relative to the Four Stages of Product Life:

Considering the benefits of Product Lifecycle Management, we realize the following:

  • Reduced time to market
  • Increase full price sales
  • Improved product quality and reliability
  • Reduced prototypingcosts
  • More accurate and timely request for quote generation
  • Ability to quickly identify potential sales opportunities and revenue contributions
  • Savings through the re-use of original data
  • frameworkfor product optimization
  • Reduced waste
  • Savings through the complete integration of engineering workflows
  • Documentation that can assist in proving compliance for RoHSor Title 21 CFR Part 11
  • Ability to provide contract manufacturers with access to a centralized product record
  • Seasonal fluctuation management
  • Improved forecasting to reduce material costs
  • Maximize supply chain collaboration
  • Allowing for much better “troubleshooting” when field problems arise. This is accomplished by laboratory testing and reliability testing documentation.

PLM considers not only the four stages of a product’s lifecycle but all of the work prior to marketing and sales AND disposal after the product is removed from commercialization.   With this in mind, why is PLM a necessary business technique today?  Because increases in technology, manpower and specialization of departments, PLM was needed to integrate all activity toward the design, manufacturing and support of the product. Back in the late 1960s when the F-15 Eagle was conceived and developed, almost all manufacturing and design processes were done by hand.  Blueprints or drawings needed to make the parts for the F15 were created on a piece of paper. No electronics, no emails – all paper for documents. This caused a lack of efficiency in design and manufacturing compared to today’s technology.  OK, another example of today’s technology and the application of PLM.

If we look at the processes for Boeings DREAMLINER, we see the 787 Dreamliner has about 2.3 million parts per airplane.  Development and production of the 787 has involved a large-scale collaboration with numerous suppliers worldwide. They include everything from “fasten seatbelt” signs to jet engines and vary in size from small fasteners to large fuselage sections. Some parts are built by Boeing, and others are purchased from supplier partners around the world.  In 2012, Boeing purchased approximately seventy-five (75) percent of its supplier content from U.S. companies. On the 787 program, content from non-U.S. suppliers accounts for about thirty (30) percent of purchased parts and assemblies.  PLM or Boeing’s version of PLM was used to bring about commercialization of the 787 Dreamliner.

 

VOLVO ANNOUNCEMENT

July 7, 2017


Certain portions of this post were taken from Mr. Chris Wiltz writing for Design News Daily.

I don’t know if you are familiar with the VOLVO line of automobiles but for years the brand has been known for safety and durability.  My wife drives a 2005 VOLVO S-40 with great satisfaction relative to reliability and cost of maintenance.  The S-40 has about 150,000 miles on the odometer and continues to run like a Singer Sewing Machine.   The “boxy, smoking diesel” VOLVO of years-gone-by has been replaced by a very sleek aerodynamic configuration representing significant improvements in design and styling.  You can take a look at the next two digitals to see where they are inside and out.

As you can see from the JPEG above, the styling is definitely twenty-first century with agreeable slip-stream considerations in mind.

The interior is state-of-the art with all the whistles and bells necessary to attract the most discerning buyer.

Volvo announced this past Tuesday that starting in 2019 it will only make fully electric or hybrid cars.  “This announcement marks the end of the solely combustion engine-powered car,” Håkan Samuelsson, Volvo’s president and chief executive, said in a statement.  The move is a significant bet by the carmaker indicating they feel the age of the internal-combustion engine is quickly coming to an end.  Right now, the Gothenburg, Sweden-based automaker is lone among the world’s major automakers to move so aggressively into electric or hybrid cars. Volvo sold around half a million cars last year, significantly less than the world’s largest car companies such as Toyota, Volkswagen, and GM, but far greater than the 76,000 sold by Tesla, the all-electric carmaker.

Every car it produces from 2019 forward will have an electric motor.   Håkan Samuelsson indicated there has been a clear increase in consumer demand as well as a “commitment towards reducing the carbon footprint thereby contributing to better air quality in our cities.”  The Swedish automaker will cease production of pure internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles and will not plan any new developments into diesel engines.

The company will begin producing three levels of electric vehicles (mild, Twin Engine, and fully electric) and has committed to commercializing one million Twin Engine or all-electric cars until 2025.   Between 2019 and 2021 Volvo plans to launch five fully electric cars, three of which will be Volvo models and two that will be high performance electric vehicles from Polestar, Volvo’s performance car division. Samuelsson said all of these electric vehicles will be new models and not necessarily new stylings of existing Volvo models.

Technical details on the vehicles were sparse during a press conference held by Volvo, but the company did offer information about its three electric vehicle tiers. The mild electric vehicles, which Volvo views as a stepping stone away from ICEs, will feature a forty-eight (48) volt system featuring a battery in conjunction with a complex system functioning as a starter, generator, and electric motor.   Twin Engine will be a plug-in hybrid system. During the press conference Henrik Green, Senior VP of R&D at Volvo, said the company will be striving to provide a “very competitive range” with these new vehicles, which will be available in medium range and long range – at least up to 500 kilometers (about 311 miles) on a single charge. Green said Volvo has not yet settled on a battery supplier, but said the company is looking at all available suppliers for the best option.  “When it comes to batteries of course it’s a highly competitive and important component in all the future pure battery electric vehicles,” he said. Samuelsson added that this should also be taken as an invitation for more companies to invest in battery research and development. “We need new players and competition in battery manufacturing,” Samuelsson said.

This new announcement represents a dramatic shift in point of view for Volvo. Back in 2014 Samuelsson said the company didn’t believe in all-electric vehicles and said that hybrids were the way forward. Why the change of heart? Samuelsson told the press conference audience that Volvo was initially skeptical about the cost level of batteries and the lack of infrastructure to for recharging electric cars. “Things have moved faster, costumer demand has increased, battery costs have come down and there is movement now in charging infrastructure,” he said.

Top of Form

VOLVO did not unveil any details on vehicle costs. However, earlier reports from the Geneva Motor Show in March quoted Lex Kerssemakers , CEO of Volvo Car USA, as saying that the company’s first all-electric vehicle would have a range of at least 250 miles and price point of between 35,000 and $40,000 when it is released in 2019.

I think this is a fascinating step on the part of VOLVO.  They are placing all of their money on environmental efforts to reduce emissions.  I think that is very commendable.  Hopefully their vision for the future improves their brand and does not harm their sales efforts.

COLLABORATIVE ROBOTICS

June 26, 2017


I want to start this discussion with defining collaboration.  According to Merriam-Webster:

  • to work jointly with others or together especially in an intellectual endeavor.An international team of scientists collaborated on the study.
  • to cooperate with or willingly assist an enemy of one’s country and especially an occupying force suspected of collaborating with the enemy
  • to cooperate with an agency or instrumentality with which one is not immediately connected.

We are going to adopt the first definition to work jointly with others.  Well, what if the “others” are robotic systems?

Collaborative robots, or cobots as they have come to be known, are robot robotic systems designed to operate collaboratively or in conjunction with humans.  The term “Collaborative Robot is a verb, not a noun. The collaboration is dependent on what the robot is doing, not the robot itself.”  With that in mind, collaborative robotic systems and applications generally combine some or all of the following characteristics:

  • They are designed to be safe around people. This is accomplished by using sensors to prevent touching or by limiting the force if the system touches a human or a combination of both.
  • They are often relatively light weight and can be moved from task to task as needed. This means they can be portable or mobile and can be mounted on movable tables.
  • They do not require skill to program. Most cobots are simple enough that anyone who can use a smartphone or tablet can teach or program them. Most robotic systems of this type are programmed by using a “teach pendent”. The most-simple can allow up to ninety (90) programs to be installed.
  • Just as a power saw is intended to help, not replace, the carpenter, the cobot is generally intended to assist, not replace, the production worker. (This is where the collaboration gets its name. It assists the human is accomplishing a task.)  The production worker generally works side-by-side with the robot.
  • Collaborative robots are generally simpler than more traditional robots, which makes them cheaper to buy, operate and maintain.

There are two basic approaches to making cobots safe. One approach, taken by Universal, Rethink and others, is to make the robot inherently safe. If it makes contact with a human co-worker, it immediately stops so the worker feels no more than a gentle nudge. Rounded surfaces help make that nudge even more gentle. This approach limits the maximum load that the robot can handle as well as the speed. A robot moving a fifty (50) pound part at high speed will definitely hurt no matter how quickly it can stop upon making contact.

A sensor-based approach allows collaborative use in faster and heavier applications. Traditionally, physical barriers such as cages or light curtains have been used to stop the robot when a person enters the perimeter. Modern sensors can be more discriminating, sensing not only the presence of a person but their location as well. This allows the robot to slow down, work around the person or stop as the situation demands to maintain safety. When the person moves away, the robot can automatically resume normal operation.

No discussion of robot safety can ignore the end-of-arm tooling (EOAT).  If the robot and operator are handing parts back and forth, the tooling needs to be designed so that, if the person gets their fingers caught, they can’t be hurt.

The next digital photographs will give you some idea as to how humans and robotic systems can work together and the tasks they can perform.

The following statistics are furnished by “Digital Engineering” February 2017.

  • By 2020, more than three (3) million workers on a global basis will be supervised by a “robo-boss”.
  • Forty-five (45) percent of all work activities could be automated using already demonstrated technology and fifty-nine (59) percent of all manufacturing activities could be automated, given technical considerations.
  • At the present time, fifty-nine (59) percent of US manufacturers are using some form of robotic technology.
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI), will replace sixteen (16) percent of American jobs by 2025 and will create nine (9) percent of American jobs.
  • By 2018, six (6) billion connected devices will be used to assist commerce and manufacturing.

CONCLUSIONS: OK, why am I posting this message?  Robotic systems and robots themselves WILL become more and more familiar to us as the years go by.  The usage is already in a tremendous number of factories and on manufacturing floors.  Right now, most of the robotic work cells used in manufacturing are NOT collaborative.  The systems are SCARA (The SCARA acronym stands for Selective Compliance Assembly Robot Arm or Selective Compliance Articulated Robot Arm.) type and perform a Pick-and-place function or a very specific task such as laying down a bead of adhesive on a plastic or metal part.  Employee training will be necessary if robotic systems are used and if those systems are collaborative in nature.  In other words—get ready for it.  Train for this to happen so that when it does you are prepared.


As a parent, you absolutely dread that call from your child indicating he or she has a problem—maybe a huge problem.  On April 25th of this year we received a call from our oldest son.  He was taking a late lunch at a local restaurant in downtown Chattanooga when he suddenly collapsed, fell backwards and hit his head on the sidewalk.  An onlooker rushed over to help him and quickly decided he needed a visit to Memorial Hospital emergency room.  Something just did not feel right.  He called us on the way to the ER. Once in the ER and after approximately five (5) hours and one CAT Scan later, the attending physician informed us that our son had a great deal of fluid collecting at the top of his brain and there was a great deal of swelling.  The decision was made by them to move him to Erlanger Hospital.  Erlanger has better facilities for neurological surgery if that became necessary.  At 1:32 A.M. Wednesday morning we received word that our son had a tumor at the base of his brain stem.  It was somewhat smaller than a tennis ball and in all probability, had been growing for the last ten years.  Surgery was necessary and quickly to avoid a stroke or a heart attack.  The tumor was pressing on the spinal cannel and nerve bundles.  Much delay at this point would be catastrophic.  It is amazing to me that there were no signs of difficulty prior to his fall.  Nothing to tell us a problem existed at all.

Erlanger referred us to the Semmes-Murphy Clinic in Memphis where all documentation from Memorial and Erlanger had been sent.  Founded one hundred (100) years ago by Eustace Semmes, MD, and Francis Murphey, MD, Semmes-Murphey Neurologic & Spine Institute has been a leader in the development of technology and procedures that improve the quality of care for patients with neurological and spine disorders. This continuing leadership has made the Semmes-Murphey name instantly recognizable to physicians across the country and the world, many of whom refer their patients here for treatment.  Dr. Madison Michael performed the eight (8) hour surgery nine (9) days ago to remove the tumor.  He is a miracle worker.  The surgery was successful but with lingering issues needing to be addressed as time allows and physical therapy dictates. Our son has lost hearing in his left ear, double vision, some atrophy in his extremities, and loss of stability.  There was also great difficulty in swallowing for three days after surgery and at one time we felt there might be the need for a feeding tube insertion.  That proved not to be the case since he eventually passed the swallow test.  That test is as follows:

  • Water
  • Applesauce
  • Jell-O-like substance
  • Oatmeal
  • Solid food

He did eventually pass.

We have a long road of recovery ahead of us but there is optimism he can regain most, if not all of his cognitive and physical abilities.  We do suspect the hearing is gone and will never return, but he is alive.

CRANIAL NERVES:

Our brain is a remarkably delicate and wonderful piece of equipment.  The ultimate computer with absolutely no equal.  Let’s take a look.

The cranial nerves exist as a set of twelve (12) paired nerves arising directly from the brain. The first two nerves (olfactory and optic) arise from the cerebrum, whereas the remaining ten emerge from the brain stem. This is where our son’s tumor was located so the surgery would have to be performed by one of the very best neurosurgeons in the United States.  That’s Dr. Michael.

The names of the cranial nerves relate to their function and they are also numerically identified in roman numerals (I-XII). The images below will indicate the specific location of the cranial nerves and the functions they perform.

You see from above the complexity of the brain and what each area contributes to cognitive, mobility and sensory abilities.  Remarkably impressive central computer.

The image below shows the approximate location relative to positioning of the nerve bundles and the functions those nerves provide.

 

 

Doctor Michael indicated the nerves are like spider webs and to be successful those nerves would have to be pushed away to allow access to the tumor.   The digital below will indicate the twelve (12) nerve bundles as follows:

Olfactory–This is a type of sensory nerve that contributes in the sense of smell in human beings. These basically provide the specific cells that are termed as olfactory epithelium. It carries the information from the nasal epithelium to the olfactory center in brain.

Optic–This is a type of sensory nerve that transforms information about vision to the brain. To be specific this supplies information to the retina in the form of ganglion cells.

Oculomoter–This is a form of motor nerve that supplies to different centers along the midbrain. Its functions include superiorly uplifting the eyelid, superiorly rotating the eyeball, construction of the pupil on the exposure to light and operating several eye muscles.

Trochlear–This motor nerve also supplies to the midbrain and performs the function of handling the eye muscles and turning the eye.

Trigeminal–This is a type of the largest cranial nerve in all and performs many sensory functions related to the nose, eyes, tongue and teeth. It basically is further divided in three branches that are ophthalmic, maxillary and mandibular nerve. This is a type of mixed nerve that performs sensory and motor functions in the brain.

Abducent–This is a type of motor nerve that supplies to the pons and performs the function of turning the eye laterally.

Facial–This motor nerve is responsible for different types of facial expressions. This also performs some functions of sensory nerve by supplying information about touch on the face and senses of tongue in mouth. It is basically present over the brain stem.

Vestibulocochlear–This motor nerve is basically functional in providing information related to balance of head and sense of sound or hearing. It carries vestibular as well as cochlear information to the brain and is placed near the inner ear.

Glossopharyngeal–This is a sensory nerve which carries sensory information from the pharynx (initial portion of throat) and some portion of tongue and palate. The information sent is about temperature, pressure and other related facts. It also covers some portion of taste buds and salivary glands. The nerve also carries some motor functions such as helping in swallowing food.

Vagus–This is also a type of mixed nerve that carries both motor and sensory functions. This basically deals with the area of the pharynx, larynx, esophagus, trachea, bronchi, some portion of heart and palate. It works by constricting muscles of the above areas. In sensory part, it contributes in the tasting ability of the human being.

Spinal accessory–As the name intimates this motor nerve supplies information about the spinal cord, trapeziusand other surrounding muscles. It also provides muscle movement of the shoulders and surrounding neck.

Hypoglossal–This is a typical motor nerve that deals with the muscles of tongue.

CONCLUSION: I do not wish anyone gain this information as a result of having gone through this exercise.  It’s fascinating but I could have gone a lifetime not needing to know.  Just my thoughts.


I know I’m spoiled.  I like to know that when I get behind the wheel, put the key in the ignition, start my vehicle, pull out of the driveway, etc. I can get to my destination without mechanical issues.  I think we all are basically there.  Now, to do that, you have to maintain your “ride”.  I have a 1999 Toyota Pre-runner with 308,000 plus miles. Every three thousand miles I have it serviced.  Too much you say?  Well, I do have 308K and it’s still humming like a Singer Sewing Machine.

Mr. Charles Murry has been following the automotive industry for over thirty years.  Mr. Murry is also a senior editor for Design News Daily Magazine.  Much of the information below results from his recent post on the TEN MOST UNRELIABLE VEHICLES.  Each year Consumer Reports receives over one-half million consumer surveys on reliability information relative to the vehicles they drive.  The story is not always not a good one.  Let’s take a look at what CU readers consider the must unreliable vehicles and why.

Please keep in mind this is a CU report based upon feedback from vehicle owners.  Please do not shoot the messenger.  As always, I welcome your comments and hope this help your buying research.


At one time in the world there were only two distinctive branches of engineering, civil and military.

The word engineer was initially used in the context of warfare, dating back to 1325 when engine’er (literally, one who operates an engine) referred to “a constructor of military engines”.  In this context, “engine” referred to a military machine, i. e., a mechanical contraption used in war (for example, a catapult).

As the design of civilian structures such as bridges and buildings developed as a technical discipline, the term civil engineering entered the lexicon as a way to distinguish between those specializing in the construction of such non-military projects and those involved in the older discipline. As the prevalence of civil engineering outstripped engineering in a military context and the number of disciplines expanded, the original military meaning of the word “engineering” is now largely obsolete. In its place, the term “military engineering” has come to be used.

OK, so that’s how we got here.  If you follow my posts you know I primarily concentrate on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) professions.  Engineering is somewhat uppermost since I am a mechanical engineer.

There are many branches of the engineering profession.  Distinct areas of endeavor that attract individuals and capture their professional lives.  Several of these are as follows:

  • Electrical Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Civil Engineering
  • Chemical Engineering
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Engineering Physics
  • Nuclear Engineering
  • Petroleum Engineering
  • Materials Engineering

Of course, there are others but the one I wish to concentrate on with this post is the growing branch of engineering—Biomedical Engineering. Biomedical engineering, or bioengineering, is the application of engineering principles to the fields of biology and health care. Bioengineers work with doctors, therapists and researchers to develop systems, equipment and devices in order to solve clinical problems.  As such, the possibilities of a bioengineer’s charge are as follows:

Biomedical engineering has evolved over the years in response to advancements in science and technology.  This is NOT a new classification for engineering involvement.  Engineers have been at this for a while.  Throughout history, humans have made increasingly more effective devices to diagnose and treat diseases and to alleviate, rehabilitate or compensate for disabilities or injuries. One example is the evolution of hearing aids to mitigate hearing loss through sound amplification. The ear trumpet, a large horn-shaped device that was held up to the ear, was the only “viable form” of hearing assistance until the mid-20th century, according to the Hearing Aid Museum. Electrical devices had been developed before then, but were slow to catch on, the museum said on its website.

The works of Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison on sound transmission and amplification in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were applied to make the first tabletop hearing aids. These were followed by the first portable (or “luggable”) devices using vacuum-tube amplifiers powered by large batteries. However, the first wearable hearing aids had to await the development of the transistor by William Shockley and his team at Bell Laboratories. Subsequent development of micro-integrated circuits and advance battery technology has led to miniature hearing aids that fit entirely within the ear canal.

Let’s take a very quick look at several devices designed by biomedical engineering personnel.

MAGNETIC RESONANCE IMAGING:

POSITION EMISSION TOMOGRAPHY OR (PET) SCAN:

NOTE: PET scans represent a different technology relative to MRIs. The scan uses a special dye that has radioactive tracers. These tracers are injected into a vein in your arm. Your organs and tissues then absorb the tracer.

BLOOD CHEMISTRY MONOTORING EQUIPMENT:

ELECTROCARDIOGRAM MONITORING DEVICE (EKG):

INSULIN PUMP:

COLONOSCOPY:

THE PROFESSION:

Biomedical engineers design and develop medical systems, equipment and devices. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), this requires in-depth knowledge of the operational principles of the equipment (electronic, mechanical, biological, etc.) as well as knowledge about the application for which it is to be used. For instance, in order to design an artificial heart, an engineer must have extensive knowledge of electrical engineeringmechanical engineering and fluid dynamics as well as an in-depth understanding of cardiology and physiology. Designing a lab-on-a-chip requires knowledge of electronics, nanotechnology, materials science and biochemistry. In order to design prosthetic replacement limbs, expertise in mechanical engineering and material properties as well as biomechanics and physiology is essential.

The critical skills needed by a biomedical engineer include a well-rounded understanding of several areas of engineering as well as the specific area of application. This could include studying physiology, organic chemistry, biomechanics or computer science. Continuing education and training are also necessary to keep up with technological advances and potential new applications.

SCHOOLS OFFERING BIO-ENGINEERING:

If we take a look at the top schools offering Biomedical engineering, we see the following:

  • MIT
  • Stanford
  • University of California-San Diego
  • Rice University
  • University of California-Berkley
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • University of Michigan—Ann Arbor
  • Georgia Tech
  • Johns Hopkins
  • Duke University

As you can see, these are among the most prestigious schools in the United States.  They have had established engineering programs for decades.  Bio-engineering does not represent a new discipline for them.  There are several others and I would definitely recommend you go online to take a look if you are interested in seeing a complete list of colleges and universities offering a four (4) or five (5) year degree.

SALARY LEVELS:

The median annual wage for biomedical engineers was $86,950 in May 2014. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest ten (10) percent earned less than $52,680, and the highest ten (10) percent earned more than $139,350.  As you might expect, salary levels vary depending upon several factors:

  • Years of experience
  • Location within the United States
  • Size of company
  • Research facility and corporate structure
  • Bonus or profit sharing arrangement of company

EXPECTATIONS FOR EMPLOYMENT:

In their list of top jobs for 2015, CNNMoney classified Biomedical Engineering as the 37th best job in the US, and of the jobs in the top 37, Biomedical Engineering 10-year job growth was the third highest (27%) behind Information Assurance Analyst (37%) and Product Analyst (32%). CNN previously reported Biomedical Engineer as the top job in the US in 2012 with a predicted 10-year growth rate of nearly 62% ‘Biomedical Engineer’ was listed as a high-paying low-stress job according to Time magazine.  There is absolutely no doubt that medical technology will advance as time go on so biomedical engineers will continue to be in demand.

As always, I welcome your comments.

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